The distribution of lands after the Roman conquest

Like Italy, the Roman conquest of southern Gaul was followed by large-scale land surveys, the most common form of which was the division of the land into squares plots, known as centuriation. The creation of these plots, for tax purposes, was proved by the fortunate discovery of the marble forma from the public square of Arausio (present-day Orange). For the other cities, examination of vertical aerial photographs and topographical maps have resulted in the identification of heretofore unknown cadastral squares, and the recreation of a theoretical grid based on plot boundaries with recurring orientations.

The current Languedoc landscape thus contains several dozen cadastral networks that influenced the region's agricultural history. These surveying operations were primarily carried out within the first hundred years of the Roman presence, and thus involved the period in which most of the villas appeared. The counterpart to this land division was the attribution of plots, which varied in size depending on the social rank of the recipients: colonists and indigenous populations who thereby had a land base for setting up a farm. The founder of the Loupian estate, which appeared around the mid-1st century BCE, might have been one of these. Nevertheless, the existence of other forms of land acquisition – through purchase or inheritance (or even fraudulent land-grabs) – cannot be ruled out.

Medias

Interactive document - One of the fragments of a marble forma discovered in Orange (Vaucluse)

One of the fragments of a marble forma discovered in Orange (Vaucluse)

On this cadastral plan we can see the major boundaries of the marked-off centuriae, the network of ordinary roads and a few topographical details (waterway) used as boundaries. Each unit is inscribed with its location in the cadastral grid as well as the allocation of lots and tax figures.
© Gallia, Editions du CNRS
Interactive document - Using archaeology to verify the existence of one of the Orange cadasters

Using archaeology to verify the existence of one of the Orange cadasters

Aerial view showing the right-angle intersection of two major roads, corresponding to a cardo and a decumanus from the centuriation (Cléon d'Andran, Drôme).
© Louis Monguillan
Interactive document - Plot boundaries that have survived from Antiquity

Plot boundaries that have survived from Antiquity

Here in Pierrelatte (Drôme), despite the raising of the level of the soil due to flooding, excavations have uncovered that the parcel boundaries were maintained in various ways, from continually digging ditches to planting the current hedges.
© Jean-François Berger et Cécile Jung
Interactive document - Example of archaeo-morphological research in the Allans sector (Drôme)

Example of archaeo-morphological research in the Allans sector (Drôme)

Based on recent planimetric and photographic documentation, it has been possible to pinpoint fossil traces and lines of modern-day parcel boundaries that were based on centuriations indicated in the Orange forma.
© C. JUNG, G. CHOUQUER et B. DELATTRE